In theory, this should add bench depth to a team that is in critical need of it while at the same time they get Glenn Robinson III back; by the time Darren Collison returns, this should be a fully loaded team for the playoffs.
But that presumes that Booker is actually any good…and at age 30, he’s as good as he’s ever going to be.
So let’s frame the question to be tested this week like this:
Is Trevor Booker a solid enough player to provide the depth Indiana’s paying him for, or is he a liability who’s going to make Indiana worse?
It’s a low bar to clear, sure, but not everyone has to be compared to LeBron, y’know?
The Counting Stats
It’s especially useful to consider Booker’s time in Philadelphia, where he was on a team comparable in skill to the Pacers, rather than his time in Brooklyn, where he was in over his head playing a major road on a team that forced him to take on more responsibility with the ball than his capabilities required; unless Young gets hurt and Booker ends up the starter, that’s far less relevant.
And with that in mind, Booker is a spectacular inside shooter (56 percent from the field, almost entirely on two-pointers; he was just 2-of-7 from three in Philly.) With 11.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes in Philly (and 16.5/10.8 in Brooklyn), that’s the kind of production that the third scoring option on a second unit can bring to the table and be effective behind the likes of Domantas Sabonis and Lance Stephenson.
Those numbers are broadly in line with Booker’s entire career. He’s always been a solid eighth man.
Well, except for that shooting in Philadelphia. 56 percent over a full season would be a career-best.
He also hit 76.9 percent of his shots from inside three feet with the Sixers. Which…well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
The Advanced Stats
First, the big four: 14.7 PER in Philly, .158 WS/48, 0.5 BPM, 0.3 VORP. That’s, for the most part, good, especially in light of his being a plus defender his entire career; Booker is a fantastic defensive player.
The thing you notice here is that Booker has the offense of a severely undersized center; he’s not going to play well with the likes of Sabonis or Myles Turner because he’s basically an at-the-rim offensive player.
But defensively, he’s a step up from Jefferson; trouble is, Jefferson can actually hit shots between 3 and 10 feet out and keep the lane from getting jammed. Booker doesn’t have that kind of range.
Throw in the fact that Booker is 61 pounds lighter (228 pounds against 289) and you see the instant defensive improvement of a guy who’s quicker and won’t blow perimeter rotations against teams with a stretch 4 on their offensive second unit.
The Team Context
So what does this mean for the Pacers? Because after all, that’s the point we’re trying to resolve here.
Offensively, it means Sabonis and Turner will be playing power forward while Booker ventures inside and acts as the center for purposes of where the shots are coming from. Which in turn creates some weird matchup issues for the other time and gives coach Nate McMillan, if he can get imaginative with schemes, a great chance to create mismatches if the ball movement comes together.
It won’t work right away (and McMillan may not be clever enough in any event), but once Booker and his teammates, especially Turner and Sabonis, get to know each other’s court positioning, it creates a lot more flexibility than Jefferson offered.
Likewise, defensively, Turner and Sabonis protect the rim, while Booker acts as the perimeter defender at the power forward position the Pacers have lacked during this season as soon as Young comes out of the game.
Which ultimately answers the question. A great defender whose offensive issues can be mitigated by the strengths of the big men he’ll be playing next to? That’s more or less the precise ideal situation Booker needs in order to be the best version of himself.
So is Trevor Booker any good? Well, you’d expect me to say Confirmed here…but there are just too many “if this and that, then the other, then it works” scenarios in play here.
In theory, it should work just fine. In practice, it’s just a little too uncertain for now, so I’m going to call it Plausible. Likely, but still just Plausible.